When we think of menopause, we think hot flushes and mood swings, but did you know weight gain is also a symptom of the change?
There are three different stages to the transition, perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Here we look at what happens in each stage.
Perimenopause (or menopausal transition)
The first stage is categorised as the last few years leading up to your last period, this can range from two to eight years and there’s no way of knowing how long this will be for each individual. Your cycles may become irregular and this usually happens around the age of 47, but this can also vary.
This stage can be accompanied by a range of symptoms such as:
- Hot flushes
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
- Urge to urinate more frequently
- Changes in sex drive
The menopause stage is when you go 12 months in a row without a period. You may find that many of the symptoms from the perimenopause stage are still present in this phase.
This is when you hit the year mark of no periods and you will then stay in this stage for the rest of your life. Many symptoms will subside now due to the lack of surging hormones.
Losing weight during the change
Whilst weight gain can be a symptom of perimenopause and menopause, it’s not inevitable – which means you can lose weight during this stage, it might just be harder. The change in weight is mostly due to the drop in estrogen, which can lead to an overall increase in total body fat, particularly in the mid-section. This fat is called visceral fat and as it sits around the organs, it can have an impact on diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory diseases.
Other factors include inadequate sleep, loss of muscle mass and increased insulin resistance, all of which can lead to weight gain.
Here are some tips for losing weight during menopause:
Prioritise your sleep
Not getting enough sleep is a sure-fire way to lead you down the wrong path – studies show that those who have too little sleep have high levels of the “hunger hormone” and lower levels of the “fullness hormone”. Make sure you have a strict bedtime routine, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, and turn off all devices before bed for a more restful sleep.
Relieve stress where you can
At this stage in your life, you may be juggling children moving out (or moving back in!), looking after parents or struggling to slow down at work. Stress is a major factor in weight gain as it leads to elevated cortisol levels, which are associated with increased abdominal fat. Take up yoga, lock yourself away with a good book, or take some time out for a relaxing bath – whatever it is, make time for it in your daily routine.
Manage your emotions when it comes to food
This tip goes for women experiencing the menopause but also those who aren’t – trying to sever that tie between emotions and eating is the key to success when it comes to losing weight. Keep a food diary to spot your triggers. Are you eating because you’re bored, or are you treating yourself because you’re feeling happy? Making a note of these habits day by day can help you to figure out what fuels your unhealthy lifestyle and therefore you can deal with it and try to replace them with non-edible rewards.
Managing your emotions through the menopause can be incredibly hard due to the surge of hormones and the stressful process your body is experiencing but persevere and you will instil habits that can last a lifetime.
The menopause is a big change for all women, so it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself. Manage your weight as best you can, but remember your health is more important than a number on the scale, always speak to a health professional if you have any concerns.